Letting Go of the Top 5 Excuses We Make to Avoid Doing Yoga
Photo by Basti Hansen
Many of are experts at generating excuses to avoid things like as eating healthily, sleeping a full eight hours, exercising or practicing yoga and meditation. For those straining to meet basic needs, these “stories” are often more justified, but for others, excuses can mask destructive habits and/or underlying beliefs around what we deserve when it comes to self-care. Here are some common excuses that prevent us from committing to a yoga practice, followed by some encouragement to help get you on the mat.
1. “I’m not strong/flexible enough.” The truth is, practicing yoga has nothing to do with how strong or flexible you are. In fact, a desire to improve your physical health is often cited as a reason to try yoga—not a reason to shy away from it.
Next time you mutter this excuse to yourself, consider the following: Beginner’s classes exist for a reason! Start where you are. If you’re new to yoga, sign-up for a beginner’s series, or try a gentle or restorative yoga class. If the yoga studio setting feels intimidating, book a private lesson with a yoga instructor for an introduction and some alignment tips before your first group class. If you attend a class and notice that you aren’t as flexible/strong as those around you, use yoga as a lab to explore into these patterns in a safe way. When the ego suffers during practice because your execution of a posture doesn’t look like the asana of others in class, extend compassion and kindness towards yourself. The mark of an “advanced” yoga practice is not strength or flexibility but the quality of one’s heart, which arises out of this conscious dialogue and inquiry with the present moment.
2. “I don’t fit the typical “yogi” profile (i.e., I’m male, enjoy pizza and partying, etc).” If your main concern is that you’re not “yogic” because you drink alcohol, smoke and love junk food—have no fear. Yoga classes tailored to beer drinkers are increasing in popularity, and while there are plenty of ways to improve your diet, no one is eating in yoga class anyway. Thus, if you notice these excuses arising—“men don’t do yoga,” or “I’m not healthy enough,” or “I don’t fit the profile”—observe them as stories passing through your mind, rather than absolute truth. This will allow you to release the underlying myth that you have to “be something” that you aren’t in order to undertake yoga practice.
3. “I don’t have enough time to do yoga.” We get it. Time is super short. Yet our perception of time also plays into how much time we have. Time does not run out, it is instead spent according to choices we make. For example, at work, instead of taking 5 or 10 minutes to surf the web or check Facebook, try sitting in silence at your desk or do some chair yoga. Similarly, could you opt to take one hour per week after work to try a yoga class instead of directly heading to the couch, TV, fridge and or/internet to decompress?
This month, commit to trying one yoga class per week, and/or taking one hour at home each week for a yoga practice. Start to notice: How do you feel on the days you’ve taken a class versus the days where you’ve chosen the TV instead? Without letting guilt or defensiveness creep in, start to view the story that you “don’t have time” as a conditioned habit, rather than reality.
If you have a family, and perceive that taking time for yoga practice is something your family won’t understand, know that caring for yourself enables you to refill the well from which they too drink. If you give everything, and have nothing left for yourself, you do a disservice to everyone. One strategy to help train yourself and your family that yoga is sacred, uninterrupted time is to set a timer in the kitchen and be very clear that you will not be available until the timer goes off, unless a true emergency occurs. Notice if this is difficult for you to do, and integrate this awareness into your practice.
4. “Yoga is too expensive.” The truth: There are many ways to make yoga affordable. The yoga community by and large attempts to be inclusive and welcoming, despite the tendency for high prices (yoga studios and instructors have to support themselves as well, and it can be a tough business to do that in).
Many yoga studios offer free or discounted community classes, and there are countless free videos available on YouTube and other websites. Many studios offer work exchanges for classes as well—presenting your situation will more often than not be welcomed and worked with. Other options include a local YMCA or fitness center membership where yoga instruction is typically included with monthly fees. Many yoga instructors offer sliding scale classes at churches and local recreation centers; some will allow you to attend for free if they know you may not otherwise participate.
5. “I don’t have space at home to practice.” For many with families, small children, and tight spaces, developing a home practice—which can be a great option to counter-act the expense of yoga—can be challenging, but not impossible.
All that you need to practice yoga is a space the size of a yoga mat, even if that’s the only floor space available. Meditation, of course, only requires a seated position. Wherever you allocate your “yoga space,” do something to make it feel sacred, even just lighting a candle or erecting a temporary altar. If you have kids and/or other “distractions” that make it challenging to practice, remember that peace has more to do with our inner, rather than external, environment. Use “distractions” as opportunities to meditate without reacting and to practice breath awareness. Notice if there other contexts in your life where you have difficulty creating and maintaining the time/space to take care of yourself in the face of others’ needs, and perhaps welcome the chance to learn more about this aspect of yourself.
What is an excuse that holds you back from your practice and how have you been able to overcome it?